What do you do with the person who says, “I’ve asked God to forgive me about this, but I still feel guilty”? I hear that statement over and over again. I usually say to these people, “If you still feel guilty, then pray to God again. But this time don’t ask Him to forgive you for the sin that is haunting you. Rather, ask Him to forgive you for insulting His integrity by refusing to accept His forgiveness. Who are you to refuse to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you? When God promises to forgive His people when they repent, He is not playing games. If He says He will forgive you, then He will forgive you. And if God forgives you, you are forgiven.” R.C. Sproul
Wonder, O heavens! and be astonished, O earth! that this most glorious Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, whom angels worship, and before whom the seraphim bow–should from all eternity engage to come and seek His Bride from this poor world, and claim her for His own!
Yet so it is!
But she is filthy and polluted! (Ezek. 16:6; Job 15:14-16; Isa. 64:6) Then His own precious veins shall pour forth the rich crimson flood to cleanse her, (Rev. 1:5) and His Spirit shall open the fountain to wash her from her sin and uncleanness. (Zech. 13:1)
But she is naked and bare! (Ezek. 16:22) Then He will cast His skirt over her, (Ezek. 16:8) and will for her, weave in the loom of the Law (Rom. 5:19) fine linen–clean and white–a robe in which she shall be fit to appear at His court! Moreover the Spirit shall bring near the righteousness of Jesus, (Isa. 46:13) clothing her with “the garments of salvation,” and covering her with the “robe of righteousness,” “as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
But she is diseased! (Isa. 1:5, 6) She is a leper! (Ps. 51:5) Yet will He bring her health and cure, for He says, “I am the Lord who heals you;” and He is actually made to be sin for her, (2 Cor. 5:21) that she might be made “the righteousness of God in Him.”
But she has no personal charms—she is ugly! Then He will put His loveliness upon her, and through it her beauty shall be perfect.
But she is poor! So He bestows Himself and His fullness upon her–and thus endows her with unsearchable riches!
But she is unwilling, and has no heart to the match, for she obeys a hostile prince! (Eph. 2:2,3) Her delights, too, are in the world and the flesh. A new heart will He give her, and a right spirit will He put within her. The Holy Spirit shall make her willing in the day of His power. “I will cause you to forget your images of Baal; even their names will no longer be spoken.” (Hosea 2:17) So that, prostrate at His feet, she shall say, “Lord, our God, other lords than You have ruled over us, but we remember Your name alone!”
And now that the Spirit has touched her heart, she feels she is diseased, and discovers her filthiness and nakedness, knows she is ugly and poor, and cannot think the Bridegroom’s heart is towards her, or that she can find favor in His eyes. And therefore she cries out, “I am black!” “Behold, I am vile! My loveliness has turned into corruption!” But He overwhelms her by responding, “You are all beautiful, my love, there is no spot in you!”
Then she exclaims, “Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; for love is as strong as death!” He replies, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine! When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior!”
Now she ventures, with a captivated heart, to declare, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His! He is the chief among ten thousand! He is altogether lovely!”
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it!” Ephesians 3:19
(“The Marvelous Riches of Savoring Christ, The letters of Ruth Bryan” October 31, 1849)
“Where sin abounded—grace did much more abound!” Romans 5:20
Deepen in us this day, contrition for our vileness, as miserable sinners in Your sight. How often without resistance, have we floated down the stream of evil! We do not cloak our wretchedness. Our lips are ready to confess—but our hearts are slow to feel, and our feet are reluctant to amend our ways. We bring our hard hearts unto You. Break them by Your Spirit—and then bind them up by Your grace. Wound them to the core—and then pour in the Gospel-balm!
Such is the blindness of our fallen nature, that we cannot see sin’s deformity—except as You are pleased to unmask it. Such is our deadness, that we cannot hate sin—except as You shall graciously implant abhorrence. Such is our infirmity, that we cannot flee sin—except as Your strength enables. Conscious of our total inability—we come to You for light, for help, for strength, for blessing.
Our sins without number stare us in the face! They are piled as mountain upon mountain. Their height reaches unto the heavens! But their full extent is open only to Your omniscient eye. The burden of our known transgressions weighs us to the dust. But the burden is light, compared to the mass which the scales of Your justice hold. We see but little, because our light is partial and our sight is dim. How must we appear, as seen by You, before whom the very heavens are not clean! You charge Your holy angels with folly. What must be Your estimate of our polluted souls! Humbled for what we see and feel; fearful for what is known only unto You—we meekly cry, “Pardon all our sins—for Jesus’ sake!”
We smite upon our breasts, as utterly unworthy of the least of Your gracious and unfathomable mercies. Hear now our cry, and work in us by the omnipotence of Your Holy Spirit, more profound and abiding repentance. Give us more and more of that godly grief, which ever fears and trembles, and yet ever trusts and loves—which is ever watchful and prayerful, and yet is ever confident and hopeful. May the remembrance of the sad past—quicken us to walk in entire newness of life. Grant that through the tears of penitence, we may see more clearly—the brightness and the glories of the saving Cross!
Oh! blessed Jesus – we flee to You! We cling to You. Our countless iniquities condemn us—but You will wash them all away! Our tears of penitence cannot remove one blot—but Your blood has all cleansing merit. Our prayers can earn no pardon—but Your mercy says, “Your sins which are many—are all forgiven!” The more we loathe ourselves—the more we love You! Our vile demerits—commend Your glorious worth!
“But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28).
Why? What’s my motivation to do this? After all, it’s not a natural human response to love those who curse you and pray for those who use you.
A friend of mine sent me an e-mail regarding my previous post “The Cost of Forgiveness.” She commented that my forgiveness for others could never provide the same level as God’s atonement and forgiveness of sins (comparing apples to oranges) and that His heart was not consumed with his suffering and the pain he had to bear in order to provide forgiveness to me, but rather that His heart was consumed with a love and holy obedience to His Father.
So, the question to me was “what are you focusing on in forgiveness… the cost to ME? or the mercy I’ve been shown? When I focus on the cost that it takes for me to forgive an offense, it seems impossible. I mean, seriously, how can I possibly love like Jesus? How can I forgive those who use me? It hurts too badly. The wounds cut too deep for that. And often in my weakness and sin, I don’t want to. Or the other side of the coin, if I’m focused on myself and I DO forgive, then I can legalistically think of myself as holy for bearing such a burden and loving like Christ.
But when I look at the wounds of my Savior… the wounds I caused in His brow, his hands, his feet, his side, his back… on his precious and holy body, how dare I say that MY wounds cut too deep for me to forgive? He willingly chose those wounds for me. He did it motivated out of love and obedience to His Father and to show mercy and abundant grace to me. Do I understand so little of that forgiveness that I now act as the unmerciful servant?
God, have mercy on me. Every time I pray this prayer, He does! In mercy, he shows me favor. In my weakness, He gives me grace. I could never repay the debts I owe. I could never erase those scars. But He doesn’t ask that I erase them. Instead He willingly accepts them, and offers me a hand of love.
My motivation to forgive comes not from the fact that I have either the ability or the desire to love my enemies. Rather, it comes from the realization that I am unworthy. Christ has shown mercy to me, the unmerciful. He has ransomed and redeemed me and now calls me his Beloved. When I sit at the foot of the cross and see that gruesome sight that He suffered willingly on my behalf, the natural response is to show that same mercy to others. I’ve been forgiven much. That’s why I forgive.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. Psalm 103
“Forgiven souls are forgiving. They do as they have been done by. They remember how God for Christ’s sake forgave them, and endeavor to do the same towards their fellow creatures. Doubtless in this, as in everything else, they come short; but this is their desire and their aim. A spiteful, quarrelsome Christian is a scandal to his profession. It is very hard to believe that such an one has ever sat at the foot of the cross.” JC Ryle
“The love of God is spelled out on the cross and nowhere else. The only basis for which God can forgive me is the cross of Christ.” J. Oswald Chambers
“Forgiveness wasn’t free or easy. It was hard. It was costly. It was painful. We can’t fully comprehend the agony Christ suffered on our behalf. But it was required to rescue you and me.
We’re called to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. That means when we’re hurt deeply, when forgiveness seems impossible—we accept the suffering forgiveness requires.
If forgiveness seems out of the question in one of your relationships, you have a great opportunity to be like Jesus and forgive.” Nancy Leigh DeMoss
“Forgiveness doesn’t look like reconciliation. Reconciliation takes two people. Forgiveness takes just one. You can forgive someone, but until they repent you’re not reconciled. And in some situations, you may never be reconciled.” Mark Driscoll
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. Unknown
One reason why judging is wrong—is because it is putting one’s self in God’s place. He is the only Judge, with whom every human soul has to do. Judgment is not ours—but God’s. “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:12. In condemning and censuring others—we are thrusting ourselves into God’s place, taking His scepter into our hands, and presuming to exercise one of His sole prerogatives! JR Miller
Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
Mark 11:25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
Luke 17:4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Colossians 3:13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.
(by Joshua Harris)
In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked”. I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.
And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.
A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I Have muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.
I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 16 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature. When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.
When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.
An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.
Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With”. The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand. And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.
But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?
Finally, He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.
Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. “No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.” I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.